Thailand, Australia and Israel significantly relaxed international border restrictions this week for the first time in 18 months, offering a broad test of demand for worldwide travel amid the coronavirus pandemic.
relaxation contrasts with tightening lockdowns elsewhere, notably in Eastern Europe where infections have reached record numbers and in parts of China, which has taken a zero tolerance approach to Covid-19 despite relatively few cases .
Hundreds of vaccinated foreign tourists have arrived in the Thai capital for a quarantine-free journey after the Southeast Asian nation approved visitors from more than 60 countries, including China and the United States.
Several European countries are also on the list as Thailand, one of Asia’s most popular vacation destinations, seeks to capitalize on the approach of winter in the northern hemisphere.
“We just picked this flight and it’s quite surprising that we are the first flight to arrive,” said German tourist Simon Raithel, 41, who was planning to travel to southern Thailand.
In Sydney, hundreds of citizens were greeted by family and friends as they became the first since April 2020 to arrive from abroad without a permit or quarantine.
“(It’s) a little scary and exciting,” said Ethan Carter, from Los Angeles. “I came home to see my mother because she is not well.”
While travel is initially limited to a few states and Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families, and New Zealand nationals, this heralds a plan to reopen to tourists and international workers.
“We missed you guys”
Israel also relaxed travel rules on Monday, but tourists should read the fine print before booking.
“Welcome to Israel,” the government said in a tweet alongside a big blue heart. “We missed you guys. “
Individual tourists are allowed in if they have received vaccine reminders – but not if more than six months have passed since their last dose, with a few exceptions.
This tempered the enthusiasm of hoteliers.
“How many tourists around the world have received reminders or are seated within six months of their second dose? Yael Danieli, CEO of the Israel Hotel Association, said in the days leading up to the relaxation.
“Even though both parents in a family are vaccinated, their children under 12 are not, so they usually cannot come to Israel.”
Members of tour groups are exempt from the six-month rule but will be required to undergo PCR or antigen testing every 72 hours for the first two weeks of their stay.
Despite the relaxed restrictions, the booming world travel is still a long way off.
The Chinese tourism sector suffers from the country’s zero tolerance for Covid-19 as cities infected, or even concerned about infections, close entertainment venues, restrict travel, or delay cultural events.
Shanghai Disneyland stopped admitting visitors on Monday.
Eastern Europe is grappling with its worst outbreak since the start of the pandemic. Latvia, for example, has imposed strict national lockdown until November 15.
The Russian capital introduced its toughest lockdown measures in more than a year on Thursday as the nationwide daily tally of cases and deaths hit new highs.
But many Russians decided it was the perfect time to fly away for a vacation abroad, with bookings surging to destinations where Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine is recognized or where conditions for Covid entry are cheap and easy.
“No quarantine, but a beach vacation!” The travel company Orange Sun Tour proclaims on its website osttour.ru, which offers trips to Cyprus, Egypt, Cuba and elsewhere.
Rules to move South Korea towards “living with Covid-19” came into effect on Monday, with the relaxation of a range of curbs and the introduction of vaccine passports in gyms, saunas and health facilities. bars.
“The path back to everyday life, which we are taking the first step towards today, is a path we have never taken,” Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol said at an intra meeting. -Covid-19 agency.
The Netherlands will impose new coronavirus restrictions this week in an attempt to curb a recent spike in infections, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said, without giving details.
Britain on Monday removed the last seven countries from its coronavirus “red list”, which required newly arrived travelers to spend 10 days in hotel quarantine.
Cases in Ireland have increased, but no new lockdowns or travel restrictions have been introduced so far.
The United States will lift international travel restrictions for vaccinated travelers on November 8.
Reporting by Jonathan Barrett, Jamie Freed, Rami Ayyub, Jill Gralow, Jiraporn Kuhakan, Orathai Sriring and Artorn Pookasook; additional lines from Pól Ó Conghaile.